The relationship between Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tenn., and Living Waters for the World (LWW) began in 2008 when Westminster member Bill Kline found himself in line behind LWW’s Executive Director Steve Young. Steve had spoken at the Nashville Sertoma Club meeting, and Bill had been inspired by what he heard. Because Bill and his wife Beth would soon be heading to Peru on vacation, he told Steve about their plans and asked if they could inquire about any known needs while there. Steve told him about a clinic in Cusco, and so began a congregation’s connection to the vital, life-giving ministry of Living Waters for the World.
When Westminster Church first became involved in the ministry of Living Waters, I was an associate pastor. Bill Kline’s passion for the ministry had inspired and motivated me, yet sadly, soon after Bill introduced the ministry to our congregation, he died suddenly.
Suzanne Allen, member of Westminster and a friend of mine and Bill’s, asked about ways to remember him and help continue the work he cared about so deeply. I suggested that she attend Clean Water U (CWU). She did, and so did I, ultimately, in 2009. While there, I was hooked. CWU introduced me to a tangible way to do what was right and necessary for the life and well-being of God’s people. Other members of our congregation also attended CWU, and we began to travel to Peru to develop sites and install systems with our partners there. Ultimately, our church became one of the founding water teams of what is now LWW’s Peru network.
Residents and leaders from a home for boys in Urubamba, Peru, that is the site of a LWW water purification system.
One of the initial challenges our congregation faced was the realization that the need for pure water in Peru was great, yet the number of church members able to take time away from their jobs and families was small. Some church members also pointed to the needs at home we could potentially neglect if so much of our time and resources were directed out of country. About that time, LWW announced the creation of the Appalachian network — an initiative for developing single-home systems to bring pure water to people in rural areas of Kentucky and Tennessee. Following an orientation and training session in Frakes, Ky., Westminster’s water team began the installation of the first system (of three) in Tazewell, Tenn.
A Macon County homeowner who now has clean water in her home thanks to
the LWW water team from Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tenn.
Expanding our LWW work to include Peru and Appalachia increased the number of church members who could participate. In comparison to the eight or fewer members able to travel to Peru, we had a pool of ten to twelve church members able and excited to do the work needed in Tennessee. Their interest and passion for the work was contagious, and more people became eager to participate.
Eventually, our team shifted to Macon County, Tenn., approximately one and a half hours north of Nashville. We partnered with a family who was using water from a creek across the road from their mobile home for baths, toilets, and laundry, and were buying water for cooking and drinking. They were thrilled to have for the first time pure water flowing into their home.
(From left) The homeowner of Macon County's first LWW system with Westminster team members Dennis Williams, Carson Salyer, and James Fritz.
Westminster’s water team continued to develop relationships in Macon County as well as Smith and Hickman Counties. Because of the closer proximity, more church members were able to participate in this ministry of outreach. People in the congregation who had not known each other well before their involvement in this ministry were working side by side — sharing in the joy and satisfaction of meaningful and life-giving service.
The net results of working in both Peru and Appalachia has been an ever-rising and widening spiral of excitement and enthusiasm for reaching beyond ourselves, offering time and expertise to help provide a necessity of life for others of God’s children. Even the young people of the church have been able to participate in the ministry when installations happened in Tennessee on weekends. Those who became involved in the Tennessee outreach were interested in learning more about what was happening in Peru, and those who had traveled to Peru wanted to become more involved in Tennessee.
It is impossible to describe the joy we have found in the relationships we’ve developed with our Peruvian partners and with the families we’ve come to know in Tennessee. Those relationships have reminded us time after time of our connection and interdependence with one another as human beings. To work alongside communities beyond our own doors in helping provide what we all need to survive and thrive has been pure gift for me. I carry with me in my mind’s eye the joyful and relieved expressions of an ever-widening circle of those whose lives have been changed by the gift of Living Water — an ever-flowing stream.